Photo books - post photo books or any other photography-related books you've just bought.

TraamisVOS

Hall of Famer
Nov 29, 2010
Melbourne, Australia
Found this one for a 'decent' price online last week, used:

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I wasn't expecting much, in fact I expected a thin-ish book with a few photos in it, some commentary by Jeff himself, that's all. But nevertheless, I really wanted to see his Widelux panorama shots.

It arrived very quickly and is in excellent condition (albeit there's some minor yellowing around the edges). It's a big, heavy, thick book with a significant amount of content. It's the weekend and I've just had the opportunity to sit back on the couch and go through the whole book, and I love it a lot. Here are some thoughts in no particular order:

  • The vast majority of the photos are not very sharp and are very grainy. Many with blown highlights and/or saturated blacks, some with elements of motion blur. The photos aren't technically perfect but they're artistically and visually spectacular. It's good for me to see real world photos like these where technical, pixel-peeping perfection goes out the window. Rather, content remains king and the photos are emotionally-driven. I need it to remind me of my photos where I'd toss some aside because they're not technically perfect. But I'll stumble on them later when I'm in a different frame of mind and realise how great the photo is because of what I've captured within the photo itself, and that technical perfection really doesn't matter that much when the content of the photo tells the right story.

  • All the photos were taken with the Widelux. Some pages contain just one photo each. Sometimes a single wide photo is spread over two entire pages - a complete spread covering the entire page edge-to-edge on the left and right pages. Sometimes 2/3 of a photo is on one page and the remaining 1/3 reaches into the other facing page with handwritten commentary by Jeff taking up the rest of the white space. I'll look at a photo on the left facing page and admire the light and composition, then I'll look over to the right facing page and admire that one too, and then I'll suddenly realise: "No wait, they're all part of the same damn photo". Multiple compositional elements, light, and stories being told within the borders of a single wide panorama shot. You could literally cut some of these photos into 2 or 3 pieces and each portion will tell its own story, have its own lighting and composition, and you'd never know it came from a single, complete shot.

  • Many of the photos are accompanied by handwritten commentary from Jeff himself, providing insight into various things like the filmmaking process, or life as an actor, or what is going on in the moment of each shot, or whatever else that places the photo in context. I love how the handwritten stuff gives the whole thing a personal touch, even if I have to read some passages several times to interpret his handwriting.

  • Mary Ellen Mark used to work as a set photographer and she appears in a few of Jeff's photos, camera-in-hand and hard at work.

  • As I went through the book, I had to remind myself that I'm seeing his best shots. I really wanted to see all his other shots too, especially all the ones that he stuffed up so that I can see his process. And then at the very end, in the last few pages of the book were a collection of photos that didn't make the cut including examples of multiple takes and much-less-than-perfect attempts. Loved it. He's not a perfect, single-take, decisive-moment magician. Not every time anyway.

  • Speaking of his process, I've often wondered how he worked with the Widelux because it has no light meter, there's no focusing function and is dependent on balancing the right aperture with the amount of limited light you have, etc. I've never heard or read of him talking about using an external light meter. It's a fickle instrument. And then right at the last page in his acknowledgements and thank-yous, I see this line: "I am grateful to [....] the set photographers who gave me film and f-stops along the way".

In summary, this book was a pleasant surprise, thoroughly enjoyed every single page. I immediately jumped online and ordered Vol 2 that he published just last year.
 
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TraamisVOS

Hall of Famer
Nov 29, 2010
Melbourne, Australia
This arrived earlier in the week. It contains much of the same goodness as described above, so there's not much I can add about Vol 2 that I haven't glowingly discussed for Vol 1. Very happy I got around to purchasing both these books.

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